Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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HomeNewsBusinessLong-stalled campaign finance reform advanced by Senate panel

Long-stalled campaign finance reform advanced by Senate panel

like a mortgage or country club membership was approved by a Virginia Senate committee on Tuesday. This is a move that lawmakers have long resisted implementing.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill introduced by Sen. Jennifer Boysko and her three Democratic colleagues, to thunderous applause.

The flexibility of Virginia state legislators to spend money contributed to their campaigns on almost anything makes them an anomaly in the country right now. Similar legislation putting restrictions to how campaign donations can be spent have been regularly blocked in previous years, despite a bipartisan assurance that lawmakers want to find a compromise on a change.

Boysko said as she introduced her measure, “Nearly all other states and the federal government prohibit the use of campaign funds by a candidate or their families.” But we could still travel to the Caribbean with our family in Virginia, and I don’t think that’s right.

The proposed legislation would forbid a candidate from using campaign funds for a cost that would be incurred regardless of whether the candidate is running for, holding, or keeping office. Contributions are allowed to be spent for “usual and acceptable expenses associated to campaigning for or holding political office,” according to the law.

Tuesday’s amendments to the bill expanded the initial allocation for child care costs by allowing campaign funds to be used for dependent care costs. It lists particular costs that campaign money are unable to pay for, such as a home mortgage, rent, or utility bill; an automobile expense unrelated to a campaign; a country club membership; a vacation; a tuition bill; and admittance to certain entertainment events not related to a campaign.

The measure said that the State Board of Elections would conduct investigations into complaints and the Department of Elections would handle enforcement.

According to the bill, if the State Board finds that a candidate “willfully and deliberately violated” its requirements, the board “must” order them to pay back the money that was “unlawfully converted to his own use.”

The board may also impose a civil penalty under the bill, which may not exceed $10,000 in total or more than $1,000 for any itemised expenditure found to be in breach.

The existing law merely prohibits MPs from using campaign cash for personal expenses after their accounts are closed.

Some lawmakers were discovered to often use campaign funds to pay for pricey meals and hotels as well as personal costs, according to an Associated Press investigation into the state’s campaign financing system in 2016.

On Tuesday, around a dozen speakers argued in favour of passing the legislation.

Please pass this law; we merely believe it to be the best opportunity. Then you won’t have to hear it the following year, said Nancy Morgan, a supporter of campaign financing reform.

Nobody voiced dissent. In prior sessions, lawmakers expressed worry that a ban may result in unfounded, politically driven complaints.

Before moving on to the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, the bill must be approved by the entire Senate. Similar legislation filed by members of that chamber have not yet been heard.

On Tuesday, a bill that would forbid politicians from holding fundraisers while in special sessions was advanced by the same Senate committee. Currently, only the brief regular session of the General Assembly is prohibited from fundraising.

Republican Senator David Suetterlein, who is the bill’s sponsor, stated that he does not believe lawmakers should be permitted to solicit donations while voting on legislation. Advocates who testified that doing so might result in a conflict shared that viewpoint. On a 12-2 vote, the proposal passed. Republican Sen. Bryce Reeves and Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell opposed it because they were concerned that it may hurt incumbents who were facing challengers. GOP senator Jill Vogel didn’t vote.



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